World champions England lived up to their billing with a comprehensive victory over Italy in the RBS Six Nations in Rome on Sunday.
Elusive centre Jason Robinson scored a hat-trick as England ran in seven tries in their first competitive match since winning the World Cup.
Full-back Iain Balshaw, wing Josh Lewsey, fly-half Paul Grayson and replacement Chris Jones also scored.
Italy’s Rima Wakarua could only manage two penalties and a drop goal in reply.
England were ahead within a minute through a Grayson penalty but Italy soon hit back courtesy of a well struck Wakarua drop goal.
England’s early attacks lacked a cutting edge but when Balshaw found himself faced by two props there was only ever going to be one winner.
Grayson converted and added a penalty to give his side a 13-3 lead midway through the half and, once Wakarua had slotted his first penalty, the visitors extended their lead with a dazzling Robinson score.
The Sale flyer fielded a poor kick and linked with Josh Lewsey before producing a trademark side-step to leave Wakarua grasping at thin air.
The Kiwi-born fly-half and Grayson then swapped penalties, before Robinson finished off some fine interpassing between Balshaw and Cohen to score his brace on the stroke of half-time.
Trailing 26-9 Italy looked on the verge of folding after the break, but they regrouped and were unlucky not to open the scoring when Andrea Masi broke through and chipped ahead.
For the best part of 15 minutes, England struggled to find their rhythm but the inevitable finally arrived when Lewsey stepped inside and beat three men on his way to the line.
Italy looked shell-shocked and England added insult to injury when Robinson latched onto Will Greenwood’s pass to complete his hat-trick.
Grayson’s conversion hit the post from wide out, but luck was soon smiling on him.
The Saints fly-half chipped ahead and the ball bounced straight back into his arms to leave him with a simple score, which he duly converted to make it 45-9.
With both sides then bringing on a series of replacements, the game grew increasingly scrappy.
The visitors had the final say, however, when Jones pounced on a loose ball to bring up the half-century and cap an impressive start to England’s Six Nations defence.
A Masi (Viadana); N Mazzucato (Calvisano), C Stoica (Montpellier), M Dallan (Treviso), D Dallan (Treviso); R Wakarua (Brescia), P Griffen (Calvisano); A Lo Cicero (Lazio), F Ongaro (Treviso), M Castrogiovanni (Calvisano), S Dellape (Treviso), M Bortolami (Padova), A De Rossi (Calvisano, capt); A Persico (Leeds), S Parisse (Treviso).
S Perugini (Calvisano), C Festuccia (SKG Gran Parma), C Checchinato (Treviso), Silvio Orlando (Treviso), S Picone (Treviso), R De Marigny (Overmach Parma), M Bergamasco (Stade Francais).
I Balshaw (Bath); J Lewsey (Wasps), W Greenwood (Harlequins), J Robinson (Sale Sharks), B Cohen (Northampton); P Grayson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Gloucester); T Woodman (Gloucester), S Thompson (Northampton), P Vickery (Gloucester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), R Hill (Saracens), L Dallaglio (Wasps, captain).
M Regan (Leeds), J Leonard (Harlequins), S Shaw (Wasps), C Jones (Sale Sharks), M Dawson (Northampton), O Barkley (Bath), H Paul (Gloucester).